Mark Millar has already decades reformulating pop culture myths -especially superheroes- looking for the tickles and considering its limits. He has done it so much from the inside, with stories that have given rise to nothing less than colossi of mass entertainment such as the script for ‘Civil War’ in Marvel or the version of the Avengers that inspired those of the MCU (the Ultimates). His is also the alternate story ‘Old Man Logan’, which inspired the latest Wolverine movie.
And he has also done so from outside the margins of the industry, often disappointed with the impossibility of manipulating the characters to his liking, which led him to the creation of Millarworld, a publisher that ended up buying Netflix to supply it with content. Outside of the major publishers, his two most popular creations may be ‘Kick-Ass’ and ‘Kingsman’, to which are added comics (some have inspired movies, others not) such as ‘Superior’ or ‘Wanted’.
Along these lines is ‘Super Crooks’, an idea that has been trying to be adapted for years. Millar published the comic, drawn in 2012 by Leinil Yu, with the clear idea of turning it into a movie (His comics always make it possible, thanks to a strongly cinematographic narrative and without experiments that prevent the translation into images,). It was a project for Nacho Vigalondo in 2011, and in 2016 Waypoint Entertainment announced that it was preparing a series. Finally, in 2017 it was owned by Netflix after the purchase of Millarworld and was adapted in anime format as a prequel to the comic.
The series focuses on a not very high-flying supervillain, Johnny Bolt, who has the ability to control electricity. When he gets out of jail, he meets with his companions, also villains with powers. Soon the capabilities of all of them and a few additions will be put to the test in the most ambitious coup of their lives, which will take place in Japan.
Super Crooks: Sparks fly
The first striking aspect of ‘Super Crooks’ is its aesthetics. Eminently anime, but with the very personal design and animation features that Studio Bones gives it, responsible for such peculiar and recognizable productions as ‘Soul Eater’, ‘Fullmetal Alchemist’ or ‘My Hero Academia’. The elegant and exaggerated style cool, influenced by the western aesthetics of the sixties and something of the current city pop of the eighty Japanese, it manifests itself in the excellent credits and a few additional sequences. The goal: to turn this bunch of supervillains into an admirable team despite their amorality.
Of course, you get it: ‘Super Crooks’ does not want, like ‘The Boys’, to pose a satire of the superheroic worldNor of the profound implications of dubious, corporate-controlled ideals creeping into pop culture. ‘Super Crooks’ is … that pop culture. And she looks over her shoulder at her contenders knowing that the only thing that is expected of her is that she threads a frenzied and well-staged adventure for us to have some carefree fun with these hotties.
And he succeeds, well he does. With feats of strength as memorable as the third episode, which is an absolutely flawless chase shot in its entirety. Or the first, that Grab the clichés of the discovery of hormones and Marvel-style teenage superpowers and puts an unexpected twist on it. Unfortunately, it does not always go well: in the second half of the series there are twists and turns that do not work so smoothly, and perhaps ‘Super Crooks’ would have liked to remain at all times faithful to its few initial characters, or at least disperse attention from the beginning.
Still, and despite these excusable drops in pace, ‘Super Crooks’ is a wonderful action and comedy series, with an innovative aesthetic and full of surprises. It does not reach the findings and the viscerality of another recent superhero animation series for adults, ‘Invincible’, but it is clear that it is convenient to be very attentive to Millarworkld’s proposals on Netflix. After the initial misstep of ‘Jupiter’s Legacy’, it seems we’ve found a tone and themes to hold onto.